Harbor's merger into Helix is OK'd Deal creates state's largest provider of health care

November 16, 1995|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

The merger of Harbor Health System into Helix Health was approved yesterday by the boards of both companies.

Helix will emerge as the largest health-care provider in Maryland.

The merger gives Helix a strong foothold in Anne Arundel County, one of the areas it had targeted. Harbor operates the 376-bed Harbor Hospital on South Hanover Street in South Baltimore and plans to open Harbor Health Park on Ritchie Highway in Pasadena in March. Helix already includes four other hospitals in the Baltimore area, and it has a partnership with Medlantic Health Care Group, based in the Washington area.

Including Harbor, Helix projects annual revenues of $624 million and will operate 2,374 beds -- including hospital, nursing home and subacute care -- treat 64,000 inpatients and 525,000 outpatients and make nearly 200,000 home health care visits yearly.

With more than 11,000 employees and 2,500 affiliated physicians, it will be one of the largest private-sector employers in the area.

"The services that Harbor provides will add to and complement Helix's comprehensive continuum of care, especially in those areas that we have marked for growth, including primary care, subacute care and home care," said James A. Oakey, president and CEO of Helix.

Harbor's board made the decision several years ago that an independent hospital was unlikely to thrive in the long term, said L. Barney Johnson, president and CEO of Harbor. He said Harbor initiated talks with Helix more than a year ago after considering a variety of options and talking with potential partners locally and elsewhere. "We decided that the multihospital system was the best model for fast and effective delivery," of health services, Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Oakey said Helix will continue to seek other potential partners, but that the emphasis would now be on "delivery, not just acquisitions."

He said the five hospitals and other Helix facilities, such as nursing homes, would continue to retain their own identities. For patients, the merger wouldn't immediately "mean a heck of lot," he said. "What it's got to mean in the future is less cost" and a system that is "as seamless as possible" in connecting doctors with hospitals and other facilities.

Nancy Fiedler, senior vice president of the Maryland Hospital Association, said the latest merger "is a continuation of the trend we've already been seeing. Over the last 18 months, we've seen a lot of affiliations and mergers in the Baltimore area, and this won't be the last. Systems of care are the future of health care delivery."

Although the affiliations are looser than Helix, nine hospitals, including Johns Hopkins, are part of the Atlantic Health group, while three in Baltimore County are affiliated with Montgomery County hospitals in the Maryland Health Network.

The other Helix hospitals are Union Memorial and Franklin Square, which launched Helix when they merged in 1987; Good Samaritan, which joined last year; and Church Home, which joined in January.

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